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Miami Dolphins’2018 Off-Season Road Map

Travis Wingfield

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“It feels right for us right now,” Gase said. “I feel like we’re in a good place. It feels like we’ve got the type of people all working in the same direction and working toward the same goal.”

An exercise as old as time, Adam Gase isn’t reading the press clippings about the third iteration of his Miami Dolphins. After two years in charge and an equal number of victories and defeats (16), the 2018 season figures to be Gase’s signature work.

“It’s never going to be the way we really want it, the way we keep talking about it [being] until guys take control of this thing. There are a lot of things I can do to make things the way we need, but at the end of this [it’s] on player accountability,” Gase said. “We need our leaders to step up. We need them to be vocal. We need them to actually do their part in the leadership role.”

That comment from the 2017 end-of-season press conference signaled signs of change in Miami. Henceforth, the Dolphins devised an off-season plan that would fly in the face of public approval.

Phase 1: Jettison players that don’t prioritize winning
Phase 2: Acquire players to reinforce coach’s message
Phase 3: Get much, much faster and athletic
Phase 4: Develop continuity within our own core principals

What are those core principles? That will be revealed later, but all good stories start at the beginning.

Phase 1: The Exodus

It began on Halloween 2017. Less than a year removed from a breakout 1,200-yard rushing performance, disgruntled running back Jay Ajayi was sent packing. The trade happened on a Tuesday, but Gase was already pouring the dirt over Ajayi’s grave Friday after a 40 point loss in Baltimore.

“We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time,” Gase said. “How about take the 4 or 5 yards that we’re going to get? 

As the Dolphins limped to a 6-10 record, trading a pro-bowl running back was just the beginning.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry and his agent somehow instituted a reverse correlation in regards to his contract. Due to hit the market in March, a wide-out with a smaller yards-per-catch figure than a handful of tight ends and running backs was asking to be paid like a premiere receiver.

“Offensively, it’s a joke,” Gase said. “We’ve got too many guys that don’t want to take it home with them. Until our best players actually put forth some effort, it’ll be [expletive].”

Similarly, as it were with Ajayi, the writing was on the wall for Landry – he wasn’t coming back. After all, Gase’s offenses have excelled when there was a democratic ball distribution operation opposed to force-feeding a limited slot guy.

The biggest shoe was still yet to drop. That came when the Dolphins moved on from all-pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. There aren’t many disparaging remarks one can make about Suh’s on-field production – he was a stellar player in Miami.

Each team is given a finite amount of resources to construct its ideal team. Pennies are gold in this business and the decision to axe one proven player to free up cash for unknowns faced its fair share of criticism.

At this point national pundits were in lockstep on the utter disaster that has become a once proud organization. Despite a porous 6-10 mark and a clear roadmap to this eventual outcome, folks weren’t buying it.

Phase 2: Reinforcements

The decision to retain and prop-up quarterback Ryan Tannehill was made months ago. Watching 16 weeks of Jay Cutler, Matt Moore and David Fales will provide a sense of security in a previously proven quarterback.

If you’re not on the Tannehill train, this is where you exit. There’s a healthy contingency of detractors believing anything this team does is irrelevant because of current quarterback situation.

Oct 23, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws a pass during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This column wasn’t written to convince you that Tannehill is a franchise quarterback; this blog has already accomplished that feat. Football minds far smarter than the author, or anyone reading this piece, have made that declaration.

Getting further into the weeds than I intended, no one is mistaking Tannehill for a top-shelf quarterback. Those players come along once for some teams, twice for the lucky and never for the damned.

The challenge Gase and the Dolphins’ brass would face was highlighting the strengths of the seventh-year quarterback. What does Ryan Tannehill do well?

– Accurate in the short/intermediate
– Lethal when afforded adequate time to throw the football
– Elite on play-action and throwing from outside of the pocket

A pair of obvious needs protrude from that list: 1.) Better offensive line play and, 2.) Quick, urgent options in the passing game.

The receiver portion would be a breeze – they grow on trees. Quality offensive line play is at an all-time low in the league and the Dolphins needed to augment 40% of the group. With Laremy Tunsil and Jesse Davis penciled in as quality pass-pro specialists at left tackle and right guard, the Dolphins decided to exercise the fifth-year option on PFF’s #4 pass protecting offensive tackle in Ja’Wuan James.

Next came free-agent Josh Sitton. A veteran with a polished resume and penchant for keeping his quarterback’s clean, Sitton is just what the doctor ordered.

Circle back to Gase’s public roasting of his own players, Mike Pouncey’s perpetual presence in the training room brought about an opportunity to complete this task. Pouncey, who played 16 games for the first time in his career since 2012, was deemed expendable because of his delicate practice availability.

Stepping in is Dan Kilgore who, with the 49ers, excelled in pass protection aside from the games quarterbacked by C.J. Beathard. The entire San Francisco line saw a regression from the mean when the rookie QB took over, and returned back to normalcy when Jimmy Garappolo took the reins.

On the outside, Danny Amendola made a career of fetching short passes from arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play, Tom Brady. Amendola’s playoff resume and third down prowess in an offense predicated on the short passing attack aids Miami in checking the box of priority number two of this phase.

The other addition at the position, as well as the offense in general, fits into phase three.

Phase 3: Speed Kills

Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Landry and Julius Thomas – names not synonymous with speed. A lack of explosion on offense and a general futility against the opposition’s offensive playmakers indicated the need for a shot in the arm.

Enter Albert Wilson, Mike Gesicki, Jerome Baker and Kalen Ballage.

Wilson is a Landry clone as far as potential production (broke just one fewer tackle than Landry on 99 fewer pass targets). Under the hood, however, Wilson has a much more impressive zero-to-sixty engine.

The elevation of Jakeem Grant from punt returner and part-time gimmick option to full-fledged threat adds to the Dolphins’ element of speed. Sprinkle in Kenny Stills and the Dolphins have a trio of receivers that can blaze sub-4.4 on the stop watch.

A rookie tripod, Gesicki, Baker and Ballage, all measured near the top of list of athletic dynamos at Indianapolis’s combine.

The offense has lacked a critical element in the Adam Gase scheme, the tight end. Gesicki is THE quintessential move piece to serve as the Y-isolation cog in Gase’s offense.

Baker rejoins former Buckeye teammate, Raekwon McMillan, in the middle of a rejuvenated defense. Together, they wreak havoc as well-crafted blitzers and finding their spots in zone and man coverage.

Ballage serves as a plug-and-play option for the departed Damien Williams. A tall, slashing style runner with the ability to flex out and play slot makes the Arizona State product the ideal third-down back – his 4.46 forty-time doesn’t hurt either.

Phase 4: Building an Identity

Keep the quarterback upright, win one-on-one match-ups quickly and offer ultimate game-planning flexibility – the offense has its desired personality in spades. One that can attack the opponent in an entirely different way than the week prior.

A similar shift occurred on the defense. A first round draft pick was spent to bolster a secondary full of names on the come-up. Minkah Fitzpatrick allows the Miami defense to mirror the offense with flexibility. A deep safety and a big nickel, his presence allows pro-bowler Reshad Jones to ball hawk with more freedom.

Dec 11, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones (20) reacts during a game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The pass rush was bolstered in an off-season trade that brought Robert Quinn to Miami. William Hayes was re-signed and the Dolphins are now six deep on the edge with passable bodies.

The development of young talent from three consecutive draft classes will be paramount. Kenyan Drake, Laremy Tunsil, Jakeem Grant, Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan, Xavien Howard, Cordrea Tankersley, Fitzpatrick, Gesicki, Baker and Ballage provide Miami with a rousing young core.

So now the process is complete, the roster is nearly set with 89 names ready to compete in August camp – but what is the plan? What is this team’s identity? First, let’s start with the off-season checklist:

Improve pass protection –

In: Josh Sitton, Dan Kilgore

Out: Ted Larsen, Mike Pouncey

Shift from a primary target to ball distribution offense –

In: Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, Mike Gesicki, inclusion of Jakeem Grant

Out: Jarvis Landry, Julius Thomas

Improve red zone and third down defense –

In: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Raekwon McMillan, Robert Quinn, Jerome Baker,

Out: Ndamukong Suh, Lawrence Timmons

At the top of the column, I mentioned core principles we can expect to be instituted by the 2018 Miami Dolphins. Gase has come from a long line of successful coaches, primarily on the offensive side of the football. Picking up things along the way from each, his ideal offense would have two traits:

1.) No huddle/tempo-based attack
2.) Flexibility to attack defenses in a variety of ways

Tempo/No-huddle –

Ryan Tannehill is entering his third season in Gase’s offense – the lengthiest stay in any one offense during his seven-year career. Dan Kilgore is healthy and capable of practicing three days a week opposed to the hermetically sealed Mike Pouncey being freed from his bubble just once on Sundays.

Danny Amendola has forgotten more football than most people will even know. Albert Wilson was lauded in Kansas City for his ability to grasp Andy Reid’s complex, nuanced scheme. Plug in the tape of Mike Gesicki at Penn State and you will see the routes he’s going to run in this offense.

Frank Gore was acquired to make the transition to a hurry-up attack more seamless. Paired with third-year back Kenyan Drake (who led the NFL in rushing the final five weeks of the season) the Dolphins are flush with interchangeable backs to keep one another fresh.

The final point is best stated in the next core principle.

Practice How We Intend to Play –

Former offensive line coach and running game coordinator Chris Foerster’s decision making is fair to question. His idea that players ought to be cross trained along the offensive line is great in theory, but it has been the focal point for tantamount breakdowns in protection over the years.

Dec 17, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jesse Davis (77) at the line of scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It contradicts the idea of competition, but the Dolphins have already anointed the starting five offensive linemen. Finding cohesion and rhythm will be a key for this attack, hence getting the front-five as many reps together as possible.

Furthermore, the Sitton, Amendola and Gore acquisitions put a literal captain and coach into each meeting room at the Dolphins’ facility in Davie. With those three, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, assignments will be communicated and supervised until they’re perfected.

The proof is already in the OTA-pudding as the Dolphins have been running up-tempo, fast-paced practices in May.

You play how you practice.

Defensive Scheme Changes –

Ranking dead last in third-and-long defense, and 30thin red-zone defense, the Dolphins needed to scrap an antiquated scheme and get with the times. Operating with almost no hint of the dime defense, and instead sticking with linebackers to cover athletic tight ends and backs, Matt Burke has one black mark on his resume.

But he can quickly quell those disparaging viewpoints by implementing the new talent on this defense. Fitzpatrick and the newly re-signed Bobby McCain give him flexibility at the slot, safety and perimeter positions. Removing Kiko Alonso from the equation and dropping an accomplished defensive back onto the field should pay immediate dividends.

The Eagles made a miraculous run to the city’s first Lombardi Trophy in 2017. An array of pass rushers that consistently pressure quarterbacks with a four-man rush, at any point of the game, was the key for that championship defense.

Miami is hoping to emulate that plan with veterans Cam Wake, Robert Quinn and Andre Branch. The lynchpin is second-year pro Charles Harris who flashed as a rookie, but was often a fraction of a second late getting to the quarterback.

Will all of this work? That remains to be seen and it’s why they play the games.

For it to work, the offense needs to click rather quickly. The schedule is advantageous at the beginning of the season with four home games in the sweltering South Florida Heat prior to Halloween. Operating an effective, efficient no-huddle scheme will put the visitor in a precarious position.

For it to work Tannehill has to stay healthy. The options behind him are an unattractive dearth of backups and journeymen.

For it to work the running game needs to find success. This team isn’t equipped to line up and run it downhill, but it can certainly take advantage favorable numbers the defense shows in the box. If the passing game works, the running game will work.

This Miami Dolphins team will pass to set up the run.

For it to work on defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick needs to be everything he’s portrayed as.

For it to work, Raekwon McMillan needs to be everything he’s portrayed as.

For it to work, Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, Cordrea Tankersley, Charles Harris, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor need to prove their flashes are a sign of things to come, not a fluky occurrence.

Where We Are Now –

The blueprint to operate a controlled passing game at an urgent pace has been laid forth. Complementing the offense is a faster defense with reinforcements added at all three levels. Depth in the secondary and on the line will encourage rotation and implementation of new schemes.

The concern is the process of acclimating so many new pieces. The no-huddle was scrapped before for its complexities derailed its overall effectiveness.

If the pieces don’t gel quickly, if the injury bug hits one or two key areas, it could all blow up.

Regardless of the results, the process all adds up. For the first time in a while, Miami has revealed a vision. Every move made coincides with that vision. It makes sense.

Will the vision come to fruition? September is right around the corner.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Fantasy Friday: Week 7

Andrew Mitchell

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This Sunday the Miami Dolphins will host the Detroit Lions in Miami. Below we will take a look at 3 fantasy players that could potentially have a good day vs the Lions. All projections are based on a PPR scoring system.

  1. Frank Gore (RB), Projection: 18pts
  • Gore has been Miami’s most effective running back between the tackles. He is has shown that his age is not a factor as he looks to be reaching back in time lately and running like his younger self. I expect there to be a heavy dose of Gore with Brock Osweiler back at the helm of Quarterback. Look for Miami to use Gore often in red zone and he should get a touchdown or 2 this Sunday.

 

  1. Albert Wilson (WR), Projection: 15pts
  • Albert Wilson has been excellent all season. He has been the best WR for Miami this season when it comes to scoring or making plays. His YAC has been ridiculous and look for that to continue vs Detroit’s weak secondary. He should catch plenty of passes and once again very may well find the end zone.

 

  1. Jakeem Grant (RB), Projection: 13pts
  • Grant, a lot like Wilson in stature and skill set has been involved more and more as the season progresses. With Osweiler at Quarterback again for Miami, look for Adam Gase and Co to try and get Grant in space so he can use his speed to beat Detroit’s defense.

 

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Miami Dolphins

9 Players on the Trade Block for Miami to Consider

Skyler Trunck

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In recent weeks, a lot of teams and coaches have been “presumably” shopping players.  The list is becoming longer by the day. Let’s take a look of players that are currently being shopped around.

To set the stage, Miami has been reportedly shopping wide receiver and former first round draft pick, Devante Parker.  He will be factored into these trades to see if he is possible compensation.

Also, Miami is sitting at $7.5m (million) in cap space on the year, with $24m available for next.  It’s probably safe to assume next year’s number will be higher as Miami has been known to cut high-dollar players in the off-season to free up cap.

However, this number still will be relatively low if Miami decides to re-new contracts of players like Cameron Wake, Ja’wuan James, William Hayes, etc.  And if Miami was smart, they’d also look into re-signing players on rookie contracts such as Xavien Howard and Laremy Tunsil.

All-in-all, it’s safe to say Miami would need an impact, top-tier player if they would be willing to part with a large cap space chunk.

 

Le’veon Bell – RB – Pittsburgh Steelers

Let’s start with the biggest name on the trade block — Steeler bell-cow running back, Le’veon Bell.  Bell has been holding out since week 1 in hopes to sign a big contract before the tread of playing RB in this league catches up to him.

Bell would be earning close to $14m (million) this year had he signed the franchise tag to begin the year.  Last year he earned around $12m. Expect any contract he will sign to be a double digit figure per year.

One would assume Pittsburgh would probably demand a high-end draft pick back for Bell and not a player like Devante Parker in return as they are already pretty set at receiver.  With all trade possibilities, Miami has draft capital they could work with.

Miami’s running back situation isn’t A-grade, but it’s far from bad.  Considering they also drafted running back Kalen Ballage this last year, it’s safe to say this position is far from a need on this team.

Given Miami would have to give up a first or second round, and take on a double digit salary figure, this trade would be a hard pass.

 

LeSean McCoy – RB – Buffalo Bills

LeSean McCoy is the other big name running back being shopped around throughout the league.  Despite his injury-riddled career, when McCoy plays, he’s one to watch and warrants the price tag that comes with.

McCoy’s cap numbers aren’t quite as bad as what Bell wants — coming in closer $9m a year (contract expiring in 2020).  Miami may be able to take on this contract, but like Bell, you’d likely have to part with another team star (e.g. Ja’wuan James, Cam Wake) this offseason to retain McCoy.

The Bills have also been rumored to want a high-pick in compensation; however, given their below average receiving team, it’s possible Devante Parker could be involved in a trade with Buffalo.

All that aside, running back isn’t a need for Miami, let alone a 30 year old, injury-riddled back with looming allegations.  Even if you are okay with trading with division rivals, like Bell, McCoy should be a hard pass.

 

Ameer Abdullah – RB – Detroit Lions

Another running back on the trade block.

Unlike the other two backs on the block, Abdullah is still on his rookie contract.  However, that contract expires after this year.

Abdullah would likely hit free agency this offseason if he stays in Detroit, as his talent level probably wouldn’t warrant an extension.  This is especially true if rising back, Kerryon Johnson, continues to dominate touches in the Lions backfield.

Abdullah should only be considered if you’re looking for a cheap, stop-gap fill for running back, which is something Miami doesn’t need at this point.

Like all backs in this list, I don’t see this as a trade Miami should pursue.

 

Amari Cooper – WR – Oakland Raiders

Amari Cooper signed a big contract in 2015 to sign him on until 2019.  A good chunk of that contract is due next year — nearly $14m.  No wonder Oakland is shopping him.

Despite the numbers, Cooper is still a good receiver in this league.  He may not be on the same level as Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, but he can be a legit weapon for teams.

However, Miami is not one of those teams needing receiving weapons.  Miami has four legit wide receiver targets, and that does not include Devante Parker.  If Miami was unwilling to pay Jarvis Landry a contract that large, why would they want to pay that to Cooper?

Cooper would likely have to take a pay-cut if Miami were to make a deal for him.  All-in-all, considering Miami’s current receiving core, Cooper doesn’t bring something drastically different to the table that the other members don’t provide.

Given the lack of need, compensation required, and salary-cap implications, it’d be illogical to make a move for Amari Cooper unless one of those three changes.

 

Deone Bucannon – LB – Arizona Cardinals

Onto the defensive side of the ball.  Deone Bucannon was drafted in 2014 as a strong safety prospect; however, he was quickly transitioned to weak-side linebacker, where he made a large impact on the Cardinals 2015 team that lost in the NFC Championship.

It’s all been downhill from there.

Out of 79 eligible linebackers graded by Pro Football Focus, Bucannon comes in dead last with a grade of 28.8.  To put that in perspective, Miami tackle Sam Young, has a 29.2.  Do you remember him?

Yes — Bucannon is grading worse, according to PFF, than Young this season.

All that aside, is he worth a late-round flyer in hopes he returns to former glory?  Maybe.

Last year, Miami could have used a linebacker with Bucannon’s speed.  However, Miami selected a similar player in Jerome Baker in this year’s draft, lessening the need for a speedy linebacker.

Bucannon’s contract is up after this year.  It’s likely he hits free agency if he continues to play the way he has.

Unless Miami’s linebacking core takes a turn for the worse in upcoming weeks, it doesn’t make sense at this point to give up draft capital or players for a linebacker on the decline.  If Miami wants to kick the tires on him, it’d be a better option to pursue him this offseason.

 

Haason Reddick – LB – Arizona Cardinals

Our own Kadeem Simmonds wrote a great piece on why Miami should trade for Haason Reddick.  Although Miami’s linebacking core is playing better than expected this year, adding depth is never a bad idea.

Reddick was a 2017 first-round draft pick.  Coming out of college, Reddick was sold as incredibly athletic with sky-high potential in this league but also marked as raw and as someone who would need time to develop.  Knowing he needs time to develop in this league, it’s odd that Arizona is already ready to ship him.

It also didn’t help things that Arizona moved him to the edge, where he was severely undersized.  He’s much more suited for an outside linebacker position where he can utilize his athleticism more.

Reddick is still on his rookie contract, so he’d be a great value.  Of all players we’ve looked at so far, Reddick makes the most sense.

I expect a mid-to-late round pick would be sufficient for a player like Reddick, or a player like Devante Parker to pair with Cardinal rookie quarterback, Josh Rosen.

He’s cheap in both salary cap implications and trade compensation, has potential, and at the very least, provides depth.  Make a move, Miami!

 

Patrick Peterson – CB – Arizona Cardinals

Huh — three Cardinals on the trade block?  Seems like new head coach, Steven Wilks, wants to clean house.  It makes sense after watching the beat-down Arizona took at home on Thursday night football.

It’s shocking to see Patrick Peterson on the trade block.  He’s been in the pro bowl every year he’s been in this league, been selected to three all-pro first teams, and is only 28!

He’s an elite player in this league at a position some would argue as the most difficult to play in today’s NFL.

He’d be an expensive player to trade for in both salary cap implications and trade compensation.  Although it’s not astronomical, he’s due $12m in 2019 and $13m in 2020. It’s also probably safe to assume a trade for Peterson would involve multiple high-end draft picks.

Miami still needs to pay their own star corner, Xavien Howard.  Would it make sense to pay another corner to pair with Howard, especially after re-signing cornerback Bobby McCain this past offseason?  Maybe not so much if you consider how much draft capital it would cost to attain him.

Although adding Peterson to a secondary consisting of Reshad Jones, TJ McDonald, Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, and Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a dream secondary and a nightmare for opponents, the cost is just too steep.

It’s best Miami uses that draft capital and cap space elsewhere and continues to build for the future.  Peterson is a trade-candidate better suited for a team that is one player away from a super bowl appearance.  Miami is not that team.

 

Gareon Conley – CB – Oakland Raiders

Gareon Conley was selected just after Miami’s first round pick in the 2017 NFL draft.  He was projected to go much higher, but due to off-field allegations at the time, he saw a draft day slip.

Conley is a more intriguing target than Peterson for the simple fact the price is low.  He’s on his rookie contract and wouldn’t demand high-end draft picks in a trade.

It’s no secret Miami is not deep at corner, as was on display this past weekend in Chicago.  Conley seems like a player that’s worth making an offer for.

However, like Reddick, Conley is a player who hasn’t found success in this league yet.

If he were to come into Miami, he’d need time to grow in this system.  He wouldn’t provide much, if any, upgrade over our current depth at corner, but next year — who knows?

Make an offer, Miami!

 

Karl Joseph – S – Oakland Raiders

Another former first rounder from Oakland on the trade block.  Karl Joseph is an interesting trade target.

Like Conley, Joseph also hasn’t found success in this league, and he’s regressed this year having only played less than 3% of snaps in the three games he’s played before going down with an injury.

He had a promising start to his career, so it’s tough to decipher why Oakland would give him limited opportunities to start the year.

Coming out of college and in his limited NFL Career, Joseph has shown promise.

It’s tough to imagine Joseph will be a costly addition, possible a late round pick.  It’s also clear Oakland is unhappy with Cooper given the trade rumors and his lack of production in some games this year.  It’s possible a player like Devante Parker could be used as trade compensation for either Conley or Joseph.

Joseph seems like a player who could fit in this defense if he heals up and continues to build on his 2016 and 2017 season.

Miami’s own safety, TJ McDonald, is signed on until 2021, but Miami could move on from him after next year with minimal dead money.  If Miami could get Joseph back on track, he may be a suitable, cheaper, and younger replacement to McDonald.  At the least, he’d provide depth to a safety core that has seen Reshad Jones miss two games thus far this year.

Like Reddick and Conley, Joseph joins the list of players Miami should strongly consider making an offer for.


I’d be interested to here what you think. Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.

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Miami Dolphins

So You Want A Franchise QB?

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

So you’ve come to the conclusion that this is the time to invest in a franchise quarterback.

Maybe you realized this 5 years ago, after having given up on Ryan Tannehill a few mediocre years into Joe Philbin‘s tenure.

Maybe you rode the Tannehill train for the past 7 years, only to come to the conclusion that you can’t go around the uncertain merry-go-round again.

Maybe you’re one of those critics that believe a football team should draft a quarterback every year until they get it right.

You may have started down a different path, but you joined together with plenty of other Dolphins fans and have become unified in the notion that the Miami Dolphins need a new quarterback.

So what does this mean for your beloved Miami Dolphins? A lot, actually. Everyone likes to fantasize over the latest draft possibilities at quarterback each season; it’s how we trick ourselves into thinking Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert are better than J.J. Watt.

In fact, look at the next four players drafted after Ryan Tannehill (who was 8th-overall in the 2012 NFL Draft):

Pick 9: Luke Kuechly (CAR)
10: Stephon Gilmore (BUF)
11: Dontari Poe (KC)
12: Fletcher Cox (PHI)

All of those players have gone to the Pro Bowl and are viewed as top players at their respective positions.

This isn’t to say that Tannehill was the wrong choice. Miami needed a quarterback and it’s fair to conclude that they weren’t going to select Russell Wilson in the 3rd-round. But this is just one example among many of how a quarterback is taken prior to better football players.

Let me get this out of the way up front. I like Ryan Tannehill as a quarterback and believe he received an untimely mix of poor coaching and poor offensive line play. Matt Ryan wouldn’t have succeeded in this environment and neither would Wilson. I don’t think it’s fair to take a different quarterback (that isn’t a Hall of Fame quarterback), insert them into Miami, and conclude that the team would have performed better. Look at what Jeff Fisher did to Jared Goff in one season with the St. Louis Rams. You don’t think Philbin had a big part in Tannehill’s (lack of) development early on? Insert the best coach/offensive coordinator Tannehill has had in his career and he has his best season cut short by an injury. It’s no coincidence Adam Gase was able to turn Tannehill into a legitimate franchise quarterback.

It’s just unfortunate that we might never really know how successful Tannehill would have been in Miami if he had a better situation around him. You want a hot take? I think Ryan Tannehill will win a playoff game for another team, and it’s going to be a smack in the face.

But it’s also fair to to want a quarterback that is going to bring you certainty and not anxiety.

And that’s where we have to be careful with what you wish for.

Ryan Tannehill isn’t the reason this team wasn’t successful. This was a collective failure by the Miami Dolphins – a continuation of the mediocre ways they’ve developed this 21st century. Getting rid of Ryan Tannehill doesn’t solve your problem. In fact, it magnifies it greatly.

Unless your solution is to obtain Teddy Bridgewater (a player who had a worse knee injury and has seen less game-action than Tannehill has), or obtain a freshly-cut Eli Manning at season’s end (which, lets be honest, is extremely likely from the New York Giants‘ perspective), then you’re best avenue is to draft a quarterback. And for everyone’s sake, lets stop going with the retreads and start building a team.

Risk of Paying for a Prospect

This is the biggest push back fans make for trading up. It’s too risky.

Those with common sense realized that the Miami Dolphins were not going to finish in the top-10 of the 2019 NFL draft. They are too talented of a team (even without Tannehill) to go 5-11. And, given their current status, they’re not about lose 8 of the next 10 games, so it’s safe to say that the Dolphins are going to have to give up a lot of draft capital to obtain the guy they want.

I’m not content with “waiting” for a quarterback to fall. Miami hasn’t gotten lucky since Dan Marino wore #13, so I’m not hedging my bets that Aaron Rodgers falls to them in the late-teens/early-20s in the draft. Nor do I believe they’ll be able to identify a 1st-round talent like Russell Wilson in the 3rd-round.

This is the riskiest part of your decision. Are you willing to risk the next 4-5 years on a quarterback that might force you to do this same exercise all over again?

Keeping it easy, lets say Miami will have to give up (at least) 3 1st-round draft picks and 2 2nd-round draft picks to move to the top-3 spots of the draft. If you get this quarterback selection wrong, you’ve now eliminated 5 potentially productive players from your roster. As Dolphins fans, we know these draft picks don’t always pan out as such, but taking away 5 starting players on rookie contracts is a lot to overcompensate for.

With that said, does anyone remember what the Philadelphia Eagles gave up to get Carson Wentz? Anyone remember what the New York Giants gave up for Eli Manning? If you get the pick right, all future assets are instantly forgotten.

Draft picks replenish annually. Miami can give up their 2019 and 2020 1st-round draft picks and by the time the Dolphins have figured out if their fresh new quarterback is the answer or not, they’ll have their 2021 and 2022 1st-round draft picks waiting for them, ready to be used in another blockbuster trade.

The fear is that getting this selection wrong means you’ve now set your franchise back for the unforeseeable future. Miami has avoided this risk and look what they’ve accomplished over the last 15 years. How much worse can a regrettable draft trade be than the current trend this team is on?

Benefit of a Young Quarterback

This is where you analyze how important a quarterback on a rookie contract is.

Carson Wentz brought the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Aaron Rodgers won a Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl and went to another Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Ben Roethlisburger won a Super Bowl on a rookie deal.
Eli Manning won his first Super Bowl on a rookie deal.

How else do all of those teams end up with such dominant defenses? Mark Sanchez went to back-to-back AFC Championship games because he cost nothing compared to the offensive and defensive talent they were able to build around him. That was a product of Mike Tannenbaum, and he followed the blueprint each other team above followed. Young quarterback mixed with a dominant (and expensive) team.

Of all the teams that have gone to the Super Bowl in the last 6 years, only three quarterbacks weren’t on rookie contracts: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan. One of those quarterbacks accepts abundantly less than what he deserves to make (allowing his team to reap the benefits of the additional salary cap space) and the other happens to be a legitimate exception to the rule (Ryan). Manning only made $17.5m the years he took the Denver Broncos to the Superbowl – which is still pretty low for a quarterback that’s discussed in the “greatest of all time” conversation.

The NFL runs on its quarterbacks, but Super Bowl success is reliant upon a dominant team, not a specific individual. The Eagles won last year’s Super Bowl because their team (and Fletcher Cox) was dominant, not because Nick Foles was their quarterback.

Having a quarterback on a rookie contract allows you to obtain the other assets necessary to build a championship-caliber team. The Dolphins aren’t going to be able to lock up Xavien Howard, Minkah FitzpatrickDavon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, Jakeem Grant and Jerome Baker if they’re too busy spending $20m on a quarterback.

What This Means for Your Roster

If you’re planning on drafting a quarterback next year, then say goodbye to most of your favorite players. Even if they do get the pick right, and they have a franchise quarterback, it’s going to take some time before everything gets turned around (not like anyone would complain with the ‘franchise QB for veteran talent’ trade off). The quickest turnarounds the NFL has seen come in Year 2. The Los Angeles Rams with Jared Goff and the Eagles with Carson Wentz are the latest examples of this. Big Ben won a Super Bowl in Year 2. Russell Wilson won his in Year 2. Even our own Dan Marino made it to a Super Bowl in Year 2.

But you need a Super Bowl-caliber team around them to accomplish that, and it’s hard to say Miami has that right now. They’re a young team, but they aren’t dominant (yet).

Cameron Wake? Won’t be part of the turnaround
Reshad Jones? Won’t be around

In fact, it’s probably easier to list who will be around if Miami selects a quarterback in the 2019 NFL draft – figuring the team will see the full turnaround in 2020-2021:

Laremy Tunsil: Most likely, but you’re paying him to be a top-3 LT in this league
Kalen Ballage: By default, rookie deal
Jakeem Grant: If the team extends him and he develops hands softer than stone
Albert Wilson: If he’s still the multiple-trick pony he currently is
Kenny Stills: A speed receiver that’ll be close to 30; unlikely to be around
Charles Harris: If the Dolphins exercise his 5th-year option; currently unlikely
Davon Godchaux and/or Vincent Taylor: Do you have the money to extend both or are you just picking one?
Xavien Howard: Did you pay him?
Minkah Fitzpatrick: By default, rookie deal
Raekwon McMillan: Did Miami extend him?
Jerome Baker: By default, rookie deal
Mike Gesicki: By default, rookie deal
Bobby McCain: it’s likely he’s still around and on his current contract
John Denney: he’s immortal

Assuming all of the above players are kept (they won’t be), and taking John Denney’s immortality out, that’s 13 players out of a possible 52-man roster that remain from the currently constructed Dolphins squad; and 4 of them will still be on your team because they’re on their rookie deals.

Again, if you guaranteed me that Miami would find a franchise quarterback for the next 10 years at the expense of the current roster, I’d probably sign up for it every time.

If you thought the 2018 draft speculation was intense for Miami, just wait and see what the 2019 draft will bring. This topic is going to float around a lot, and we’re not going to get a clear-cut answer until the Dolphins make their selection next April. Until that selection is made, keep in mind all of the various aspects that go into this decision. It’s easy to say “give me a quarterback”, but the repercussions are vast and last for years.

This decision won’t come down to “if” Miami will take the risk; they’re going to. We just have to hope that they made the right selection. Otherwise, expect to see this post pop up again in 2021 – except with a bunch of different names (and John Denney).

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